Ledyard - If the victory the night before was steeped in ambiance, a well-pitched game under the lights in front of a big crowd, Saturday morning's victory was quite the opposite.
East Lyme High School's softball team beat Ledyard 15-5, with rain, and a lot of it, causing a 28-minute delay in the fifth inning. At the end, East Lyme coach Judy Deeb was soaked, looking as if she were auditioning for a revival of "Singing in the Rain."
And that's what the winningest high school softball coach in state history looked like approximately 1 p.m., perhaps fitting since surely in her 42 seasons there have been a lot more grind-it-out style games than those which were aesthetically pleasing.
With the win, Deeb broke the state record for victories by a high school softball coach, making her 553-297. That eclipsed the record of retired Hale-Ray coach Lou Milardo, who was 552-149 in 31 seasons.
"She's the single head of that from the start and she has shaped it," East Lyme athletic director Steve Hargis said later in the day of Deeb's accomplishment as the only coach in program history. "She steered that program through all the rules and regulations changes and how the kids have changed from generation to generation; to have steered it for such a long time to this level of success is kind of fascinating. It's quite an accomplishment."
"That's her pride and joy. She always looks forward to doing it … just being around the kids to see what they do and how they develop," said East Lyme 22-year junior varsity coach Warren "Whitey" Whitehouse, who spent the latter innings of the record-breaker in the dugout with Deeb after the JV game was rained out.
Deeb was given the game ball by Ledyard coach Ray O'Donnell, as her team completed a sweep of two of its biggest historical rivals in a 16-hour span.
Deeb tied Milardo's record with a 2-1 win over first-place Waterford in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division on Friday night in East Lyme, winning in the bottom of the seventh on a base hit by Morgan Lloyd. The win Saturday came at the newly christened Ellen Mahoney Softball Complex, with Mahoney having provided Deeb with enough of her career losses that Deeb mentioned the irony of playing there now.
Deeb said she spent a restless night, listening to it rain.
"I was thinking of all the little things that go into coaching," said Deeb, whose team moved to 14-2. "I was concerned about the emotions from (Friday) night, about having to call all the kids if today got rained out."
Ledyard then took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI triple by Tyler Gernhard and, after East Lyme made it 2-1 in the second, the Colonels came back to tie it 2-2 in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Hannah Lawrence.
East Lyme scored two in the fourth and two in the fifth, getting a two-run triple from Kirsten McGinty to highlight the fourth, to lead 6-2. But that's when it poured, with the umpires agreeing to call the game with three outs to go before it was official. That meant the Vikings would make another trip to Ledyard on Monday and play the game over in its entirety.
O'Donnell and his assistant Mark Forster then embarked upon a significant grounds-crew effort to remove puddles from first base and the pitching mound so the game could be completed, something for which Deeb was grateful.
"I appreciated the fact Ray came out with his staff. It would have been anticlimactic to start over again on Monday," Deeb said.
After East Lyme pitcher Meghan Welch got Ledyard in order in the bottom of the fifth, the rain began pelting Ledyard pitcher Jessica Monday at a greater velocity, with Monday struggling to find the strike zone. The Vikings added seven runs on four hits, including a two-run single by Lloyd.
Madison Horner had three hits, including a double, for East Lyme, while Lloyd, Sarah Bond and Erica Hill had two each and Kaylie Crosby scored three runs. Lloyd had four RBI, while Welch stuck out five and walked none.
Savannah Johnson had three hits for Ledyard and Gernhard two.
East Lyme was having a successful season a year ago at this time when it suffered the death of assistant coach Dick Beams. The Vikings finished 11-10.
"It affected us emotionally," Deeb said. "Hopefully he's looking down and he's happy we're able to be successful."
Deeb, who won a state championship in 1994, says she's not going anywhere any time soon, especially with a roster full of juniors on this year's team and an atmosphere of camaraderie.
"That's why," Deeb said of spending time with the players, who took her to play paintball this year over April vacation. "… Also, I'm very competitive."